3 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Meal Planning
GET MORE INFORMATION WITH OUR GUIDE
The writers at Food-Stamps.org know the pressures that face the modern family, and making sure to feed your family at a reasonable time is just one more thing to worry about during the day. Planning meals ahead of time is an excellent way to save time and money, but there are meal-planning snags that even the best chef can hit. Busy schedules, ambitious recipes and poor planning all contribute to additional kitchen stress, so let the team at Food-Stamps.org usher you through helpful tips and tricks for planning the perfect meal every day.
Planning meals for the week is a smart way to save time in the kitchen every day. Knowing the menu eliminates long-winded conversations and unhelpful responses to inquiries of dinner requests. Some home chefs may want to browse blog posts or unused cookbooks for meal ideas, which is a great way to breathe fresh air into stale menus. Nevertheless, ambitious meal preparation is just one common mistake many families face. Complicated cooking techniques, overly specific ingredient lists and time management are hurdles in every kitchen, and poor coordination of meal types can lead to a culinary disaster. A cook may plan a week’s worth of meals using new and exciting recipes, but then find himself or herself fatigued by Wednesday. Brand new recipes add variables to meals that can cause home cooks pressure and uncertainty in the finished product. Cooking in that manner all week can create late meals and dread about yet another recipe that might not be worth the effort. The team at Food-Stamps.org suggests mixing some new recipes in with tested home favorites to assure stability and certainty to the week’s meals. Another pitfall is planning too many meal components at once, especially if they are all brand new recipes. Trying to create all new meals in a short amount of time is a recipe for kitchen chaos, but the incorporation of new elements to familiar dishes will be sure to keep things fresh.
The first step in meal planning is reading the recipe from top to bottom – some cooks stop at the ingredient list, but are unprepared for the next instruction while in the middle of cooking dinner, or are unaware of the time needed for the next meal component. Poor preparation is yet another element that causes kitchen confusion for responsible meal planners. Reading the ingredients and instructions thoroughly and ahead of time lets the chef know what tools, techniques and ingredients are necessary for the week. This method of planning will help the chef decide if the recipe is possible with the tools at hand, or if any substitutions are available. A last minute change in plans can very easily turn a cook’s hard efforts into a failure if something goes terribly wrong.
One way to ensure preparedness is checking the pantry before each meal planning and grocery store trip. Home chefs may find themselves assuming they have the necessary ingredients, especially basic components like salt or cooking oil, but are unpleasantly surprised when they reach for the item during preparation and it is not on the shelf. Such scenarios can be difficult to remedy and often require interrupting the cooking process to go back to the store. The team at Food-Stamps.org suggests making a list of all ingredients and tools needed, and then checking the pantry and cabinets for the items. If anything needs restocking, the shopping list is prepared for a trip to the store. Another smart step is checking foodstuffs periodically for freshness and expiration dates. One way to ensure food frustration is realizing the ingredient is expired while in the middle of cooking, or even worse: cooking the expired item and ruining the meal.
Another helpful method to combat poor preparation is cooking and preparing as many meal components as possible at the beginning of the week. If multiple meals require diced onions, for example, a timesaving tip is to cut up the required amounts and store them for use as needed. Cutting up a head of lettuce or grilling chicken breasts on Sunday evening means the week’s lunch is easy, quick and healthy for the whole family.
Another difficulty the home chef faces is food flexibility, or a lack thereof. Meal prep is easy to do with the same meals consistently scheduled on the same day every week, but such repetition often leads to boredom. Meal planning does not need to create a dull routine that drives families out to unhealthy and expensive restaurant options. To combat this meal fatigue, the group at Food-Stamps.org suggests changing various elements of a dish to create exciting and new meals that will keep everyone’s taste buds happy. For example, families that are tired of ground beef burgers may try ground turkey chicken patties for light and lean proteins that open up a completely new way to eat burgers. Tacos are another incredibly versatile meal – cooks can switch out traditional tomato salsa with pineapple salsa for a sweet, complex topping that uses canned pineapple and easy-to-find red onion. Experimenting with seasonings and flavors is another cheap way to keep meals exciting. Some recipes may call for specific and hard to reuse items, so the home chef may wish to build a week’s menu to utilize such ingredients, or forgo the ingredient, altogether and find a more common substitution.
Sometimes life interrupts well-laid meal plans, and the home chef should always have a backup plan for dinner. The home chef may forget to go shopping, or heavy traffic on the commute home interferes with meal preparation, but a flexible cook can turn the night around. The home chef may, instead choose to make a meal out of ingredients already in the house, like pancakes for dinner, or utilizing leftovers in creative ways. With reasonable expectations, adequate preparation and flexibility, cooking can be an enjoyable task that allows home chefs to explore their creativity while providing for their families.